Economic and health arguments used to try and stem growing community efforts to reduce plastic pollution
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — With growing awareness that plastic trash is having serious impacts on aquatic environments, especially in the oceans, communities around the world are moving to reduce the reliance on single-use plastic bags and other sources of plastic.
At the same time, the industry is pushing back, setting up a classic environmental battle. Instead of figuring out a way to be part of the solution instead of the problem, plastic bag manufacturers are making an economic argument, trying to show with questionable studies that plastic bag bans impact sales and employment.
It’s a pretty typical tactic, commonly used by the energy industry, but it has the potential to be effective. In one recent example, a conservative think tank, the National Center for Policy Analysis, issued a press release purporting to show that employment at stores affected by a bag ban fell by 10 percent in the past year, and that sales dropped by 6 percent compared to nearby areas without a ban, where sales supposedly grew by 9 percent during the same time. Here’s a link to the study.
“These findings suggest that bag bans may displace commerce and have real economic effects,” said NCPA Senior Fellow Pamela Villarreal. “Shoppers want to have a choice and will vote with their feet.”
“Unfortunately, in Los Angeles County and other jurisdictions that have imposed bans or punitive taxes on bags have not considered unintended consequences. The environmental benefits of banning plastic bags are dubious enough, but the potential hardship created for businesses has been all but ignored.”
On the East Coast, where Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley recently upheld a ban on bottled water sales in Concord, the International Bottled Water Association made an argument against the ban based on health and safety — as if there were no alternative to single-use plastic water bottles.
In a press release, the trade group hinted at a possible lawsuit, saying the ban discriminates against bottled water in favor of other beverages and even hinting that people choose bottled water because of concerns over public water supplies.
“We are disappointed in the decision by the state Attorney General to approve the amendments to the by-laws of the Town of Concord, Massachusetts, that ban the sale of bottled water in single-serve PET bottles within the town, and we are exploring all available options to continue to oppose the by-law.”
“People need to drink more water. The consumption of water, whether from the bottle or the tap, is a good thing and supports people’s pursuit of a healthy lifestyle. Any actions that discourage people from drinking bottled water are not in the public interest … Banning or restricting access to bottled water in the marketplace directly impacts the right of people to choose the healthiest beverage on the shelf.
The message ended with a patriotic appeal:
“This ban deprives residents of the option to choose their choice of beverage and visitors, who come to this birthplace of American independence, a basic freedom gifted to them by the actions in this town more than 200 years ago. It will also deprive the town of needed tax revenue and harm local businesses that rely on bottled water sales.”